From the Archives December 1st, 1962

Sat, Dec 1, 2012, 00:00

The theatre producer Hilton Edwards, then head of drama at Telefís Éireann, answers ‘Irish Times’ questions

Mr. Edwards, how did you first become involved in the theatre?

– Well at first I was studying music. I was a singer, though my main interest was in orchestral music. I am a Londoner. I had no near relative in the theatre, but I had a remote relative who was an actress, Elizabeth Arkall, and she suggested one day that I should go along to the Old Vic for an audition. I went with all the nerve and temerity of youth, and I think I recited something from Cyrano de Bergerac. The Old Vic producer, Robert Atkins, told me I had not got sufficient experience, and suggested I came back to see him in a year, but in the meantime that I should go and see Charles Dolan [who] happened to have a part that suited me. I was lucky, if you can call it luck getting into this job at all. He engaged me for the sum of £3 a week in the year 1921, and the first part I had was the Player King in Hamlet with the Charles Doran Shakespearean Company.

– And it was while you were with this company that you first came to Ireland?

– Yes, at the end of the tour we came to Belfast for a fortnight, Dublin for a fortnight and Cork for a week. It was just before Christmas, 1921. Years later, shortly before the Cork Opera House burned down, I rescued a playbill of that tour which I still have. I remember at the end of the tour I asked for 5s[hillings] rise, and Mr. Doran was very nice but he only offered me 2s. 6d, and so I went back to the Old Vic.

– Why did you leave the Old Vic?

– I left it after five years because I felt I had been in the classical theatre long enough and I should widen my experience. Also I wanted to get more money. I ended up getting £14 a week in the Old Vic. The last play I was in before I came back to Ireland was a play called “The Dybbuck.”

– How did you come to settle in Ireland?

– In the cast was an actor who had produced for Anew McMaster, and when “The Dybbuck” finished he asked if I knew any actor who would come to Ireland . . . to play parts like Iago and the King in Hamlet, and Macduff – with Anew McMaster. I had no intention of leaving London and I rang up all my friends but I couldn’t get them to go. It was then suggested to me that I should go myself. In this company I met Anew McMaster’s brother-in-law Micheal MacLiammoir: he was acting and painting very beautiful scenery for McMaster. At the end of the tour in Cobh I got pneumonia, I think now from rowing on the bay at night. They had to leave me behind in Cobh; MacLiammoir nursed me and was very good to me.

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